Welcome to a new feature on Foodette- eating for one drastically restricts the menu items I can taste or try, and in the interest of trying as many places and new culinary discoveries as possible, I’ve decided to compile the top ten things I’ve eaten in the last 30 days, both to demarcate the time I’ve spent here (I’ve been an Arkansawyer for a whole month!) and give a taste, so to speak, of some of the exceptional food around here. Without further ado, here’s May 18 to June 19– a miraculous, strange, beautiful month in no particular order.1. El Sueño, Eleven Restaurant at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville
While the rest of the Happy Hour- pardon me, Culture Hour, was unimpressive, this cocktail shone above, with tequila, rosemary, cucumber, lime juice, and tonic. Bright and fresh with crushed ice and an herbaceous punch. And I swear this isn’t a subtle Citi endorsement. 2. Iced Mango Chai, Kennedy Coffee, Bentonville
A refreshing drink on a hot day- Kennedy takes basic, but spicy chai tea and mixes in dried mango powder over ice. Fruity and sweet, with a nuance unlike anything Starbucks has put out.3. Charcuterie Burger, Tusk & Trotter, Bentonville
One rainy day for lunch, I bit into a loaded brioche bun with housemade bacon, duck foie gras, roasted red grapes, garlic boursin cheese, and pickled peppers atop a sausage patty. Needless to say, freaking ridiculous. The fries were less than impressive- glazed with an herb mixture that rendered them overly sweet and sticker than Scotch tape.
4. Honey Vanilla Latte, Pressroom, Bentonville
Delicious and hot and surprisingly, not too sweet. This is the only hot drink I’ll concede to having around here, what with the 90+ degree afternoons in the middle of June and all. The drizzle of local honey on top and vanilla bean seeds at the bottom make it comforting, causing me to yearn for December in Bentonville.
5. Pecan Waffle with Country Ham, Waffle House, Bentonville
Yeah, I went there. Yeah, I know it’s a chain, but weirdly enough, it’s one of the only local greasy spoons with solid, consistent food and a steady stream of Queen on the radio. The waffle is thin and buttery and crammed with chopped pecans. A slab of country ham, grilled on the flat-top, makes it even more sumptuous.6. End of Summer, Wednesdays Over Water at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville
I’ve made a rendition of this as best as I can- unfortunately, I forgot my phone when I had this, but it was like doing a self-body shot– smoked alderwood salt chew first, then a shot of mezcal out of a hollowed Kefir lime, chased with a scoop of sweet pink rose-hibiscus sorbet made with extracts from Pink House Alchemy.
7. The Chicken Coop, Arsaga’s Depot, Fayetteville
Arsaga’s is a local coffee roaster with locations all over Fayetteville, but this is the only one housed in an old garage with delicious crepes. Ten points to The Depot. This is the Chicken Coop, with roasted herb-rubbed chicken, cheddar cheese, fresh peaches, and honey butter in a cornmeal crepe. The potatoes were drastically underdone, but the crepe was what I came for- and devoured. I ate this before marching in Arkansas Pride with Walmart carrying the flag!
8. Malted Frozen Custard Shake, Shake’s, Fayetteville
Yeah, I made short work of this. Truth be told, there’s nothing better after a concert- my first country concert, in fact, than the marshmallow-soft, creamy, airy flavor of frozen custard. Another first! (Quick primer: the FDA requires ice cream to have a minimum of 10% milkfat, gelato, a minimum of 3.5%, and frozen custard, a minimum of 10% plus 1.4% egg yolk, making it thicker and fattier than the both.) Yeah, it’s damned good. I had my shake mixed with pretzel pieces and malt, giving the vanilla base a salty kick.9. Gluten-Free Birthday Cupcake, Bliss Cupcakes, Rogers
A surprisingly good cupcake from a small chain- their gluten-free offering was as moist and nostalgic as any Funfetti cupcake in the 4th grade. The frosting was piled high and the inside was soft and colorful- big enough for two and not overly sweet, it had a fragrant vanilla flavor and good crunch from the sprinkles. 10. California Burrito, King Burrito, Rogers
Dinner. For four days straight. A California burrito is the badass of the Mexican food circuit- rice, beans, lettuce, pico, meat and cheese, are de rigueur, but this turns it up to ‘once’ by adding a whole avocado, spicy chile sauce, and fresh French fries, with queso on top. This place has massive burritos, fresh agua fresca, and the best salsas in the state, as far as I’m concerned.
So that’s it for the first 10 in 30- I’m already scheming out the next month, which should include a pie tour (or two!), plenty of beans and cornbread, and a trip to a few more states. Long live Arkansas, and thank you for following my travels so far.